A disabled man who has twice fled from South Sudan to escape its civil wars is one of many refugees in settlements in northern Uganda who are receiving urgently needed assistance, thanks to Samaritan’s Purse Canada donors.
Aziz Patrick is a powerful man with broad shoulders, massive arms, and a friendly handshake that could crush someone’s fingers if he wanted.
But the strength drains out of Aziz, leaving him shaken and teary-eyed, when a visitor asks him where his three young children will grow up.
Today, they are with him and his wife in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in central Uganda. They arrived at the facility operated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last year after civil war broke out in South Sudan.
The war has forced them, and more than 1.2 million other South Sudanese people, to escape into Uganda where they are being cared for as refugees.
The Patrick family is receiving regular food rations, administered by Samaritan’s Purse, from the UN’s World Food Program. They also have a small home built for them by the UNHCR.
Refugees in Uganda are normally expected to build their own homes, but Aziz’s left leg is withered from polio when he was seven. He must walk with crutches, which limit his ability to build, farm, and many other activities.
Although he thanks God for the help he has received from Samaritan’s Purse and other organizations, Aziz says: “The life we are living here (as refugees) is not how a human being should live.”
He would love to return to South Sudan, but has little hope that will happen. There is no sign the civil war—in which government and rebel forces have both committed a variety of atrocities, including murder and rape—will end soon.
Sadly, this is the second time a civil war has turned Aziz’s life upside down. He was only nine in 1983 when the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Army in southern Sudan rose up against the government.
Millions of average Sudanese people ran for their lives to avoid being caught in the cross-fire. Aziz says his family “lived for six years in the bush,” hiding and hoping the war would end, before finally giving up in 1989 and entering Uganda as refugees.
“We stayed there (in a refugee settlement) for a lot of years,” Aziz recalled. “We lost our parents (to illness) in that camp.”
He and some family members returned to Sudan in 2008. Although the civil war wasn’t over, the fighting had largely subsided and there was talk of a peace settlement that eventually resulted in the southern, mostly Christian part of Sudan becoming an independent nation in 2010.
Unfortunately, it was only a couple of years later that civil war broke out again – between South Sudan’s Nuer and Dinka tribes. “Havoc started again in our country, and then we again ran back (to Uganda),” Aziz said.
While many of the 60,000 South Sudanese people inside the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement hope to someday return to their homeland, Aziz’s inability to walk severely limits how he can re-establish a life in South Sudan, or protect his wife and children if fighting were to break out again. So he is resigned to remaining in a Ugandan refugee settlement and relying on help from Samaritan’s Purse and others.
“Look at us now,” Aziz said, his chest heaving as he fights back tears. “They (his children) will grow up to be like me (a refugee) and produce their kids also (in a refugee settlement).”
He has a message for South Sudan’s government and rebel military leaders: “Let this dispute end with us (his generation). Let our kids go back home to stay, and let them develop the country in peaceful ways. The suffering should end with us, not reach them (his children).”
Please partner with us in helping struggling South Sudanese refugees like Aziz and his family. They desperately need our prayers and financial support as their nation’s civil war continues.
We are also assisting in other South Sudanese refugee settlements in Uganda – distributing food, drilling wells, building latrines, and providing seeds and farming tools to help people grow food. About 4,000 more refugees from South Sudan are arriving in Uganda daily, so the need for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus remains very urgent.